It seems that all governments under threat fear communication media. Instead of the kill switch, Cameron of the UK seems to be proposing a narrower ban: social media use by miscreants. How does this work? Does the government know who is planning mayhem and who is not? Does it shut down base stations in affected areas, or does it target specific people? What is to prevent them from simply calling their friends about the next electronics store to hit?
More controversially, Mr. Cameron said the government was working on measures that would stop rioters from using social media — Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger, principally — to coordinate and direct their “horrific actions.” Borrowing a leaf from authoritarian governments that Britain has been quick to criticize in the past for similar measures — China, Egypt and Libya, among others — he said his government had concluded that “it would be right to stop people communicating via these Web sites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”
Free-speech groups said restrictions on the use of social media or smartphones would be difficult to enforce and could violate basic freedoms.
“It seems like a bizarre and kind of knee-jerk reaction by the government,” said Padraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship, a magazine that covers free-speech issues. “We’ve seen this kind of thing time and time again, especially with young people, when it comes to technology. Now it’s social networks and smartphones. A few years ago it was video games. Before that it was horror films.”